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Full text of "Observations on the Manners of the Inhabitants Who Occupy the Southern Coast of Arabia and Shores of the Red Sea; With Remarks on the Ancient and Modern Geography of That Quarter, and the Route, Through the Desert, from Kosir to Keneh"

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( 192 ) 

VIII. — Observations on the Manners of the Inhabitants who oc- 
cupy the Southern Coast of Arabia and Shores of the Red 
Sea; with Remarks on the Ancient and Modern Geography of 
that Quarter, and the Route, through the Desert, from Kosir to 
Keneh. Communicated by James Bird, Esq. Read June 
23d, 1834. 

As steam-communication, between India and this country, has be- 
come a subject of public inquiry, the latest information regarding 
the people of southern Arabia, and along the shores of the Red 
Sea, may be of interest to the members of this Society. I am 
indebted to others for some of the geographical facts which I here 
communicate ; and the remainder of this paper is the result of 
personal observation and inquiry among the Arabs. 

In the afternoon of the 10th of January, J 833, 1 embarked on 
board the Hugh Lindsay, government steamer, which was now 
to perform her fourth voyage to the Red Sea ; and, early in the 
morning of the 20th following, first saw the high land on the Ara- 
bian coast, which lies to the eastward of Ras Sharwin or Kisin 
point. At 9 a.m. we had advanced within twenty-five miles of 
the shore, and observed that the whole of this coast is bold and 
mountainous. It appeared at first sight to closely resemble the 
shores of India ; but a nearer view soon convinced us that we had 
been deceived. The mountains, which rose to the height of two 
or three thousand feet, presented, here and there, the flat tabular 
appearance of the trap formation, with that scarped and fortified 
aspect which characterises the hills on the Dekhan coast, but with- 
out a tree or mark of verdure, without even the stunted brushwood 
which covers and gives beauty to the most barren of those on the 
Indian shore ; sterility claiming this dreary region as its own. 
The eye of the observer ranges in w r onder over this country, where 
the depth and ruggedness of the ravines, that descend to the 
ocean, convey to him an impression that desolation here reigns 
triumphant. 

The two vertical pillars which crown the mountain ridge near 
Ras Sharwin, and are named Asses' Ears, on account of their 
fancied resemblance, were soon left behind, while the steamer 
continued her course through the now smooth sea ; and early qn 
the morning of the 21st our anchor was cast at Mukallah. This 
port, since the ruin of Aden, has become a place of some import- 
ance ; and is generally frequented as an emporium by the trading 
vessels from India and the coast of Barbara. 

Mukallah, situated N.N.W. of a small point of land that shel- 
ters the town on the east, is concealed from the observation of 
those coming from India until the vessel rounds the headland, and 
has almost entered the bay. Here large vessels obtain safe 



Observations on the Coast of Arabia, fyc. 193 

anchorage close to the shore, except during the prevalence of 
southerly winds, to whose violence they are completely exposed. 
It is under the dominion of an independent Shaikh, who has power 
over ten or twelve other towns in this neighbourhood. The pre- 
sent possessor, one of a family that has for several generations 
been in authority at Mukallah, is named Abd-al-Rab. He is not 
less than seventy-five or eighty years of age ; is tall in stature ; 
is athletically made ; and has a dull, sulky cast of countenance, 
which indicates as much sternness of purpose as ferocity of dis- 
position. Not long previous to our arrival, one of those petty 
warfares, in which each party calls to their aid the Bedwins of 
the Desert, had been carried on between the old Shaikh and his 
younger brother, Abd-al-Habib. The latter, who was more po- 
pular at Mukallah than his now surviving brother, raised a consi- 
derable party in his favour, and seized on one quarter of the town, 
while the friends of his rival occupied another. A desultory firing 
was kept up between the opposite sides for several days ; when 
Abd-al-Habib, attacked with symptoms of cholera, died sud- 
denly ; but not without the suspicion of having been carried off 
by poison, secretly administered. It is thus that an obnoxious indi- 
vidual is easiest removed ; and though we have heard much of the 
Arabs' hospitality, their fidelity, and the openness with which they 
profess themselves your enemies, they will seldom hesitate to nega- 
tive all these by their actions, when their interest dictates to them 
a contrary line of conduct. Frequent examples of poisoning 
happen among themselves ; and, where distinguished foreigners 
have been the sufferers, I may mention that of the lamented 
traveller Dr. Seetzen, poisoned by the father of the present Imam 
of Sanaa, who gave to Mr. Mackell, of the Bombay medical 
establishment, a manuscript vocabulary belonging to the de- 
ceased, which contains the German and Arabic names of objects 
in natural history. 

The present Shaikh of Mukallah retains in his service a consi- 
derable number of followers to protect him against domestic foes, 
or the attacks of the neighbouring shaikhs, who divide the posses- 
sions of this coast, and are frequently at war with each other. 
These armed retainers, who are generally slaves, and recruited 
from among the Suhailis of the African coast, are sometimes, 
however, less innocently employed than in humbling their foes, or 
keeping down sedition ; and have been known to plunder defence- 
less boats from India, with a view of recruiting their masters' 
finances. Instances of this kind are less frequent than they were 
some years ago. The presence of our armed cruizers in this 
quarter, the late establishment of steam communication between 
India and the shores of Arabia, and the more intimate and cordial 

VOL. iv. o 



194 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

connexion formed by the shaikhs with our eastern government, 
have operated as a salutary check on the lawless dispositions of 
the rulers who possess this coast. The Shaikh of Mukallah, 
however, must plead guilty of having been formerly addicted to 
these malpractices ; and felt as little concerned, perhaps, at the 
death of a factious brother as he did at these acts of robbery. 
Abd-al-Rab, though suspected of having been accessory to his 
brother's death, is too far advanced in dotage to have taken an 
active part in the murder ; and his kurani, or secretary, who pos- 
sesses the confidence and power of his master, is more justly 
considered to be the guilty person. 

The coast of Arabia, as before said, is essentially different in 
appearance from that of India. Instead of the amygdaloid and 
basaltic rocks which, in the latter, bound the shores of the 
ocean, we have here perpendicular cliffs of lime and sandstone, 
with alternate shelving banks of white calcareous earth : for the 
red ferruginous soil which covers the mountain sides, and gives 
nourishment to grass and brushwood, we have interminable hills 
of bare rock, barren heaps of trap tuff, and breccia, where not a 
blade of vegetation is seen : for the green colour of the highlands, 
we have a brown or unpleasant grey appearance of the surface ; 
and then the character and costume of the people are quite as un- 
like the other as is the nature of their country. The brown and 
sun-burnt visage, the slender but active form, and energetic manner 
of the Arab, clad scantily, form a no less striking difference to 
the fair complexion, the sleek look, and indolent movements of 
the Hindu merchant, clothed in ample folds of red turban and 
white dhotar, who is here exiled from his native land in pursuit of 
gain. The fine regular features of the Sumali traders from Bar- 
bara ; their ringlets of soft hair, artificially changed to a flaxen 
colour, and allowed to flow negligently around their shoulders, 
here again present a contrast to the jet black complexions and 
woolly hair of the Suhailis from Ajam, who have not the thick lips 
or protruding mouth of the negro. 

The dress of the people in this district is more like that of the 
poorer orders of Indian Mohammedans than that of the Arabs in 
general. Instead of the long blue cotton shirt, with wide sleeves, 
which is worn by the inhabitants of Egypt and Syria, the Arabs 
here use a piece of striped cotton to cover their loins and thighs, 
and have a kirtle, made of cotton or woollen cloth, to come no 
lower than the grom, over which they gird a leather belt, to give 
support to the waist. The last also serves to retain the crooked 
dagger or jambia, and sometimes pistols, with one or other of 
which all are armed. In addition to these weapons, the Shaikh's 
military retainers are accoutred with swords and matchlocks. 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. 195 

Their usual head-dress is a scanty turban, which some twist about 
their heads, like a rope around a cone. Some wear sandals, 
though the greater number are without any covering to the feet. 
The Sumalfs are yet more lightly clad than the Arabs ; and, in 
addition to a wrapper for their loins, have only a thin white sheet 
thrown negligently around their shoulders. The people at Mu- 
kallah intermarry with the Mohammedans of Kahtewar and Gd- 
jar&t ; and the Shaikh's youngest wife is the daughter of a petty 
chief in that quarter. 

The town has rather an imposing appearance on approaching it 
from the sea. The houses, which are generally divided into three 
stories, have rows of narrow latticed windows, flat roofs, and 
watch-towers. Railed walls, ornamented in the Mohammedan 
fashion, with serrated balusters, enclose the roofs of the houses, 
and supply the females of a family with a private place for exer- 
cise, and a cool sleeping apartment during the hot weather of 
April and May, which must be intolerable. The castellated ap- 
pearance of the dwellings reminds one of the baronial habita- 
tions of feudal times ; and this style of building was probably 
borrowed from the Arabs about the time of the crusades. Sun- 
burnt bricks, of white calcareous earth, and shell limestone, are 
the materials generally used for buildings : which, when plastered 
with lime, have an air of outward cleanliness and comfort that is 
not found existing within them. 

On visiting the Shaikh, who was seated in the second story of 
his mansion, we found him surrounded by a body of dirty Arab 
attendants, among whom were several of his children. After some 
conversation with the commander of the steamer, coffee, made 
from the husk of the plant, and sweet sherbet, were handed round. 
I did not relish the former, as it was without sugar ; but, on giving 
over my cup to an attendant, the remaining contents were eagerly 
swallowed by him ; and a clear proof afforded me that the preju- 
dice of the Indian Mohammedans, who will neither eat nor drink 
with Europeans, has been adopted from the Hindus. 

This Mohammedan patriarch's attendants, who laughed and 
prattled with each other, were so much at ease in presence of 
their master, as to lead the imagination back to those primitive 
ages when the members of a tribe shared the dangers and counsels 
of their lord. The room in which the Shaikh received us was 
nearly as primitive as the manners of his followers. It was a 
dirty whitewashed apartment, twenty feet wide, of which the floor 
was covered with a common mat : on which the old man and his 
counsellors were seated ; and the only furniture connected with 
his establishment, that bore the stamp of modern days, were some 
chairs placed for the accommodation of his European visiters. 

o 2 



196 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

The hills of Mukallah, which closely approach the sea, and 
leave little or no intermediate beach, are composed of white lime- 
stone, traversed by sandstone, similar to what forms the hills of 
the Desert between Kosir and the Nile. At the base of the 
highest mountain, situated N.W. of the town, trap breccia 
occurs ; and the same extends some way along the east side of a 
narrow valley, in which flows a small stream of good water, that 
has its source near the village of Bakrain, distant three miles from 
the port. 

On the road between Bakrain and Mukallah, veins of secondary 
sandstone traverse the lime formation in an east and west direc- 
tion. Near the village, a hot spring, of which the temperature is 
98° of Fahrenheit, is met with ; and also a cold one, from which 
the inhabitants of Mukallah, and trading boats, are supplied with 
water. North of the village, the road continues to pass over 
barren, rocky ground, and now and then to deeply wind among 
hills, where a few stunted bushes are the only produce, affording 
pasture to the goats and camels of the Bedwins. As far as the 
eye can reach, there is nothing seen but a succession of hills ; 
between which are valleys, that occur as oases in a desert, similar 
to that of Bakrain. The town of Hazramaut is distant, I was 
told, five days' journey on an ass, or about a hundred miles : on 
approaching which, the valleys are said to widen, and the richer 
and deeper soil to produce date trees abundantly. The present 
ruler of Hazramaut is Shaikh Bobak-bin-Salim ; to whom many 
of the other shaikhs of this coast pay tribute. 

In the valleys, similar to that of Bakrain, a small rill of water is 
made to irrigate a date-grove ; and several patches of scanty soil, 
collected by building up terraces along the bed of the water-course, 

are cultivated with dura, (|j) — holcus sorghum — some stunted 

radishes, and occasionally a kashew-nut tree, called vaidan ( ^ \ 
by the Arabs. 

During the prevalence of the south-west wind, which brings 
rain, in June and July, to this part of the coast, a considerable 
stream is formed in these valleys ; and the quantity of produce is 
thus considerably augmented, though by no means to an extent 
that might entitle this country to the name of Arabia Felix, given 
to it by the ancients. It was through the medium of this country, 
and the trade of the Sabseans, that the produce of India, consisting 
of jewels, spices, and other valuables, was conveyed to the west ; 
and such articles of luxury seem to have influenced so powerfully 
the minds of those who received the imports, that imagination 
associated their richness and the country from which they came. 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. 197 

This is the only way we can account for a moderately fertile tract 
being distinguished by a name that ought to denote a Paradise. 

During the time we lay at Mukallah, the general range of 
Fahrenheit's thermometer was from 78° to 83°. The wind blew 
from the north-east, bringing along heavy clouds, and sometimes 
a little drizzling rain. I was informed that this last is not unfre- 
quent here. 

The southern part of the Arabian coast, between the Curia 
Muria islands and Bab-al-Mandib, and also its western border, 
from the Straits to the neighbourhood of Mekka, was known to 
the Greeks, as Apafiix -h EuSaiAUuv, or Arabia the Happy. This 
appellation, given to distinguish it from the other districts of 
Arabia Petraea and Deserta, would appear to be a translation of 

? ' ... 

its Arabic name of -j (Yamun), signifying "the Blest;" though 

some, erroneously conceiving the name to be .^ (Yaman), have 

said that the Greeks hereby meant to distinguish the country on 
the right or south. The geographer Ibn Alwardi describes it as 
that part of Arabia situated opposite the country of Barbar and 
Zanj, or that of the Siimalis and negroes, and divided from the 

province of Nijd (Jksy) by intervening mountains. Among the 
Greeks, Arabia Felix was made to include the country of the 

Alramitae, or the modern Hazramaut ( i^i.+ , f ^')i with the pos- 
sessions of the Homeritae, the Sapphoritae, and the Ascitae ; all 
of which are mentioned by Ptolemy and Pliny. The Arabian 
geographers, in like manner, sometimes include Hazramaut and 
Tahamah* in Yaman ; though they generally restrict the appel- 
lation to that part which, embracing the sea-shore and moun- 
tainous tracts about Marib and Sanaa, extends from about 
Mokha to Ras Harjiah, or the ancient emporium Arabiae. East of 
this is Hazramaut ; of which the district, on the coast, from Ras 
Harjiah to Zafar, near Ras Morbat, is known by the name of 
Shihir-f", erroneously called Seger or Sijar, from a wrong reading 
of its Arabic name. It is mentioned by Marco Polo, with the 
article, and correctly called Escier ; the chief city of which gave 
name to the whole, and was forty miles east of Aden. 

* Tahamah is thus described by Ibn Alwardi : — " It is a division of Yamun, 
situated between Hijaz and Yamun, and is environed by mountains. Its limits are 
the Sea of Kolzum on the south and west, and the mountains on the north and east. 
It is inhabited by Arab tribes ; and among its cities Hejar is celebrated." 

■(■ According to the Arabic geographical dictionary, called Maajmu-1-Baldan, 

Al-Shfhir ( j fcuiM ) > s a tract of country on the coast of the Indian Ocean and the ter- 

ritory of Yamun, extending, they say, from Aden to Oman, to which it is joined. 



198 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

In this district is situated the town of Ufe (Zafar or Dafar), 

which must not be confounded with a city of the same name iu 
the neighbourhood of Sanaa. The last, according to the geogra- 
phical work called " Maajmu-1-Baldan," is now in ruins, and 
was the capital of the sons of Hamaiar, or the Homeritas, a 
branch of the Sabaeans ; over whom Charibael was sovereign in 
the time of the Periplus*. The Homeritae inhabiting Zafar 
were known to the ancient geographers as the Sapphorita?, 
who inhabited the country between the Homeritas and Sabaeans. 
Pliny tells us that Saphar was a town that lay inwards from the 
port of Ocelis, and that the kingdom was called Saphar or 
Sav6. He has confounded it, as would appear, with the district of 
Saba or Maribf ; for Save is placed, by the Periplus, as a town 
distant three days from Moosa, and thirteen from Aphar, or Zafar, 
in the country of Sanaa. The Save 1 here meant is probably the 

same as ** (Shaibba) of the Maajmu-1-Baldan, which is said 

s 

to be opposite Yamun, and on the road from Zabid (^Jj) to 
(UJuj) Sanaa. Saba (\^ l ), called by Ezekiel ShebaJ, and de- 
scribed by Ibn Alwardi to be the same with Marib, must not be 
confounded with Save and Sabbatha ; the last of which is a city 

in Hazramaut, now called Shibam (Jj^). Marib, or Saba, was 

the chief place from which oriental produce was obtained in the 
early ages, and is north-east from Sanaa. From this the mer- 
chants came to occupy the fairs of Tyre " with the chief of all 
spices, and with all precious stones and gold J." 

Amidst many different opinions entertained regarding the 
country from whence came that celebrated queen who visited 
Solomon at Jerusalem, none appears more reasonable than that 
which assigns its locality to Marib. From this she came with " a 
very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, 
and precious stones §." Spices were used for the anointing the 
tabernacle of the congregation, the ark of the testimony, the altar 
of incense, and of burnt offering ||. The cassia, cinnamon, and 



* Vincent's Periplus of Arrian, p. 314. 

+ The Nubian geography says, that Marib is also one of the cities of Harzamaut, 
but which is now in a manner destroyed ; and this is the city of Saba, from which 
came Belkis, the wife of Solomon. From Hazramaut to Saba is a distance of two 
hundred and forty miles j and between this and Sanaa there are one hundred and 
twenty miles. 

* Ezekiel xxvii. 22. § 1 Kings x. 2. || Exodus xxx. 23. 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. IQ9 

sweet calamus were imported from India, but the myrrh was 
brought from Barbara and the African coast, as was the gold pre- 
sented by the Queen of Sheba to Solomon. 

The present articles of trade bartered in this quarter are the 
same as when the Roman merchants frequented these shores. 
1 was told, at Mukallah, that besides the myrrh, gum, and frank- 
incense, brought by the SumaMis from Barbara and Ajam, sheep, 
fowls, eggs, and slaves are imported, and find a ready sale in 
Arabia. 

f 

There are two kinds of frankincense or (i^W) loban; one of 
which is the produce of Hazramaut, and is collected by the Bed- 
win Arabs ; the other is brought by the Sumalis from Africa. 
The former, which is met with in small globular lumps, has a 
tinge of green in its colour ; but the other, which is more like 
common resin, is of a light yellow appearance. What the SumaMis 

9 

import, and name .Ja*-* ^U (loban mati), is less fragrant than 

the Arabian kind ; it is, therefore, preferred for chewing, but the 
last is more used for fumigation. Both kinds are exported by the 
Hindu merchants to India, along with myrrh, gum, and small 
portions of honey, collected in the country near Aden. The 
sheep, which are of the Abyssinian breed, have large tails, like 
those of the Cape of Good Hope, and are covered with fine white 
hair instead of wool ; these, with the fowls and eggs, are sold to 
trading vessels that touch on the coast. On our arrival at Mu- 
kallah, there were two American vessels at anchor. They had come 
here to obtain a stock of fresh provisions and radishes, as one of 
them had a crew suffering from scurvy ; which disease made its 
appearance during a long cruize in search of spermaceti whales. 
Excepting sharks' fins and salt fish, obtained here in great abund- 
ance, the articles before mentioned are the only ones imported 
from this part of Arabia : and in return, the merchants trading to 
India buy rice, sugar, and cotton clothes ; as in the days of the 
Periplus, when the inhabitants of Muza sailed to Lymirica, and 
Barygaza, or the Desert of Sind, and Broach, and brought these 
articles back to Dioscoris, or Socotra. In exchange for these, 
they loaded their boats with tortoiseshell. Besides the last, ivory 
was purchased on the coast of Barbara ; and at the present day it 
is brought here by a caravan from the interior of Africa. 

The town of Barbara* is situated nearly two hundred miles to 

• Ibn-Alwardi says, " The country of Barbara is joined to the country of Nubah, 
on the sea-coast opposite Yaman ; and in this there are populous towns, and a 
mountain which they name Kanuti. This mountain has seven peaks, and is visible 
for forty-four miles at sea. Many of the people of Barbara eat frogs, reptiles, and 
other unclean things," 



500 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

the south of Bab-al-Mandib. A fair assembles here annually, 
when small trading vessels arrive from the Red Sea and Persian 
Gulf. Caravans, of four thousand camels, come at this time from 
the interior of Africa, and bring with them gums, ivory, ostrich 
feathers, skins, and other articles. The language of the Surnalis, 
who possess this country, is the Ghlz or Ethiopic ; which, from the 
specimens of it given in Ludolf 's Lexicon, is a language cognate 
with Arabic. The geography and trade of these countries, hitherto 
so little known, deserve to be more fully investigated : but I now 
resume my journal of the steamer's progress along the Arabian 
shore. 

On the 24th of January we left Mukallah, and passed Cape 
Aden. The following morning, at daylight, we came in sight of 
Ras Bab-al-Mandib, which is a moderately elevated conical hill 
of apparently basaltic formation. The Straits, or Bab-al-Mandib, 
are two narrow entrances to the Arabian Gulf, separated by the 
island of Perim ; which is a black rock, on which there is no trace 
of vegetation. The eastern, or smaller strait, is about three miles 
in breadth, the other fifteen. We sailed through the former with 
a light south-east breeze ; and, before night, passed Mokha and 
Jabal Zeghir. South of Jabal Zi, called by the Arabs, Daoab, 
and near the entrance of the eastern strait, there is a sandy bay, 
with a Bedwin village and water ; the situation of which corre- 
sponds with that of Ocelis, said by Pliny to have been more a 
watering-place than an emporium. Near the island of Perim, 
and on the African shore, numerous turtles, that are poisonous 
when eaten, are caught, on account of the tortoiseshell. Many 
Arabs find employment in this trade, as in the age of the Periplus. 

Having passed Mokha, we continued our voyage, and expe- 
rienced, on the 27th, an unusually sultry and oppressive state of 
the weather, which was accompanied by a breeze from the E.S.E. 
These phenomena, being very uncommon at this season of the year, 
led the captain to conclude that they would be soon succeeded by 
a strong N.W. wind. Accordingly, towards night, the breeze set 
in from this quarter, and continued increasing, accompanied by 
cloudy weather and rain. Before the succeeding morning, the 
breeze had become so powerful, and the sailing-rate of the 
steamer so much diminished, as to render it doubtful whether, with 
the limited quantity of coals then on board, the passage to Jidda 
could be made good. At noon, the island of Zobair was seen 
bearing N.W. by W. ; and, there being now an object in seeking 
a place of shelter till the wind moderated, we bore up for Hodida, 
and not long after came to anchor in four fathoms water. 

Hodida is a town of considerable size, situated N.E. of a 
sandy bay, which, on one side, is sheltered by the land running 
out N.W., and the other S.S.E. Ships, when anchored here, 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. 201 

are well protected against a heavy swell, if coming from the north, 
as a coral reef on that side breaks the violence of the surf. The 
style of building is similar to that of Mukallah, but the houses 
are on the whole better finished ; and the domes and minars of 
several mosques are advantageous additions to the beauty of the 
town. Though ships and boats less frequently resort to this har- 
bour than the one at Mukallah, yet the market-place of Hodida 
is better supplied with articles of comfort and luxury. Besides 
silks and cloths of various kinds in the bazaar, I observed that 
the several grains procurable in India were exposed for sale. 

Jauar, called by the Arabs \jii (durah), bajri or (j^^) dtikhan, 

korad, or dujrah hindi (phaseolus maximus), chuna, or (LkL) 

sambarah (cicer arietinum), with wheat and bailey, calledjj (barr), 

and t^^ (shair), are produced, and brought from the valleys of 

Yam6n, where small streams irrigate the only fertile portion of 
Arabia. In the neighbourhood of Mokha, and about Hodida, 
the country is flat and sandy, and chiefly produces date-trees; but 
from the mountains beyond the Tehamah, which are visible from 
the coast, and are distant two days' journey, grapes, coffee, limes, 
and other produce are brought to the market. 

About seventy miles south of Hodida there is a river, on the 
fertile Wadi of Zabid, which is the only stream of Arabia that 
contains a sufficient quantity of water to enable the current to 
reach the ocean. It has been sometimes doubted whether any of 
the Arabian streams reached the sea ; and many have thought the 
water of all was expended in irrigation, or lost in the sands. I 
have been informed, however, by good authority, that this stream 
forms an exception to a general rule. When Ibn-al-Wardi wrote 
his geographical dictionary, called " the Pearl of Wonders," 
Zabid is described as a large city on a small river, where merchants 
from the maritime parts, from Habshah, or Abyssinia, Irak, and 
Egypt, came to trade. It has since declined in importance, and 
the mouth of the river in which it lies is now so much obstructed 
by a bar of sand, that its water continues quite sweet to the very 
place where it disembogues itself into the sea. 

On our arrival at Hodida, the town was in possession of the 
rebellious Turkish soldiers of Mohammed Ali, who had mutinied 
the previous year, and taken possession of the town and mosque 
of Mekka, but were soon after driven out by the Nizam Jadid. 
Turchi-bil-Maas, their leader, who was absent at Mokha, had also 
seized on Zabid, Bait-al-Fakih, and other places along the coast. 



202 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

The only cruelty he committed in these conquests was having put 
to death in cold blood the Daula of Mokha. The country seized 
on has been long subject to the Imam of Sanaa ; who, sunk in 
effeminacy and debauchery, thinks not of his subjects' happiness, 
while he can tyrannically find the means of gratifying his sensual 
propensities with the money contributions of his deputies, unjustly 
raised by exaction. Since our visit the rebels and Turchi-bil- 
Maas have been driven out of Mokha by Ali-bin-Majitta on the 
part of the Imam. 

We sailed from Hodida on the 30th of January, and arrived at 
Jidda on the 2nd of February. Any description of this place is 
here unnecessary, after the excellent account given by Burckhardt, 
the best and most learned of Eastern travellers. Between Jidda and 
Ras Mohammed, there are several places known to ancient and 
modern geography, that can with certainty be identified ; but Dr. 
Vincent has already so well illustrated this subject, that little re- 
mains for others to do. I may, however, remark that the ruined 
town of Inouanah, near the Gulf of Akaba, is the Onne of the Peri- 
plus, and that Charmotas is the Sharm Yambu; for Sharm signifies, 
in Arabic, a port. 

From Jidda we sailed for Kosir, where we arrived on .the I Oth 
of February, from which date I will continue my original journal, 
containing an account of the road from hence to the Nile. 

Feb. 1 Ith. — I visited old Kosir, six miles N. W. of the modern 
town. The town of old Kosir is situated on the north side of an 
inlet of the sea, which formerly extended westward into the land 
about a mile, but is now crossed by a bar of sand, that prevents 
the ingress of the water into the former channel. The ruins of 
the houses are chiefly found on the north side of the channel, 
which is still swampy in some parts of the bottom, where, in 
former times, the sea formed a kind of backwater to the point 
of land on which the town stood. North of the town a range of 
calc-tuff mountains extend a little to the east, and shelter the 
site of the town from northerly winds. Two small conical risings 
crown the summit of this range, and are the chalky mountains 
mentioned by Bruce. The banks which bounded the former inlet, 
are formed of white calcareous tuffa and sand, as is also the whole 
of the shore of the Red Sea at this part. The sea appears to have 
gradually retired from the land, and left a considerable beach be- 
tween its present limits and the base of the mountains westward. 
Mr. Carlass, of the Indian navy, found a portion of an alabaster 
vase among the ruins, and numerous portions of broken glass, and 
lackered pottery are found. Thermometer at day-break, 6l°. 

New Kosir is situated on the south side of a sandy point of 
land, the base of which is formed of shell limestone, forming a 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. 203 

kind of cove or anchorage where vessels may lie in five fathoms of 
water within sixty yards of the shore. South of the town, at the 
distance of twenty miles, a range of hills, 4000 feet in height, is 
visible. The sandy banks south of them are more abrupt than 
those in the north, over which run hills of calc-tuff, that ascend 
to the height of 200 feet. Between the sand banks and the sea, 
there is a flat gravelly beach, varying in breadth from a quarter to 
three-quarters of a mile. The houses of the town are low and 
meanly built of sun-burnt bricks, made of white calcareous earth, 
and only a few of them consist of two stories. North-west of the 
town is a small citadel defended by round towers, and a few 
guns of no great calibre are mounted on the works. 

Feb. 12th. — Marched from Kosir, going W. N. W. for one 
hour and twenty-five minutes between banks of breccia and 
pebbles, which appeared stratified as on the banks of rivers. A few 
minutes after came to a stream of water, which followed the course 
of the road, that then turned west and continued so, as far as the 
Bir Anglis. These are wells of brackish water, dug by a detach- 
ment of the Indian army which went by this route into Egypt, 
and are distant two hours and thirty minutes. On the south side 
of the stream, some black hills of trap-rock occur, and soon after, 
on the same side, there are ranges of stratified limestone, of 
which the strata dip N. E. On the opposite side, sandstone and 
lime are found alternately. The whole of the road is flat and 
gravelly, having all the appearance of a broad dry river bed, open- 
ing here and there,.on the right and left, into valleys of two or 
three miles in length. In the limestone, near Bir Anglis, the 
strata alternate with sand, and are frequently studded with round 
pebbles. Thermometer at day-break 6l°, in the shade, march- 
ing, 70°. 

While near the shores of the Red Sea, I may mention that 
Lieutenant Wellstead, of the Indian navy, found three stone tablets 
belonging to a temple which he uncovered near Ras-ul-Anf, and 
has determined beyond doubt the site of the antient Berenice. 
Two of the tablets were inscribed with hieroglyphics, and a third 
with Greek. The last, which was mutilated, contained a dedi- 
catory inscription by a Ptolemy, who had for his queen a Cleopatra, 
his wife and sister. Such was the case with Ptolemy Euergetes, 
P. Lathurus, and P. Dionysius, husband of the renowned Cleo- 
patra. 

Feb. 13th. — At thirty-five minutes past seven, left Bir Anglis in 
continuation of the march through the Desert. The two narrow 
wells of brackish water at Bir Anglis are the only means of sup- 
ply which the poor Moghrobin pilgrims, going by this route to 
Mekka, have of quenching their thirst, though the water is totally 



204 Observations on the Coast of Arabia 

unsuited for the use of those who can carry with them skins of 
wholesome water or other such means of supply. The road lay 
west for one hour and twenty minutes, or four miles, between light- 
coloured hills of lime and sandstone, situated on the right. The 
flat tabular arrangement, scarped-like face, and striated appearance 
of the different strata of these hills were finely contrasted with the 
black shining surface, the rounded waving ridges, and conical pro- 
jections of the trap breccia on the left. The valley, which had 
seldom exceeded in breadth a good-sized river, narrowed where the 
sandstone formation joined the other, which was continued on both 
sides of the road, though rocks of the sandstone formation occa- 
sionally re-appeared. After thirty-five minutes past eleven, we 
arrived at Sayad Siiliman, where are the remains of an old wakalah 
or caravanserai, and a well of tolerably good water for the desert. 
The latter, as appears from the names of Messrs. Briggs, Han- 
cock, and Wood being recorded here, had been lately repaired at 
their expense. The distance between Bir Anglis and Sayad Suli- 
man took us four hours ; and, after having rested a little, we con- 
tinued our march, four hours more, to Abu Ziran, where there 
is no water. Here there is a ruined wakalah, in the middle of 
which there is a deep excavation, now partly filled up, but which 
was either a reservoir for water, or a well. We passed several 
watch-towers on the road, and another ruined wakalah, besides 
those just mentioned ; all of which are said, by the natives, to be 
the work of the Afranj, but who may be particularly meant by 
the term does not appear clear. The distance from Sayad 
Suliman took four hours, the road occasionally turning S. and 
S.W. The loaded camels were ten hours from Bir Anglis to 
Abu-Ziran. 

Feb. 14th. — Left Abu Ziran at half-past seven: the thermo- 
meter, at sun-rise, was as low as 35°. For an hour and ten 
minutes, the road lay W., after which it ascended a little, run- 
ning W. S. W. one hour and fifty minutes more to Bir-us-Sid, 
where there is water. On the rocks, south of this well, there 
is a short hieroglyphic inscription. From Bir-us-Sid, two hours 
and twenty minutes, we came to a well-executed hieroglyphic in- 
scription, on the north of the road ; a little farther on from which, 
and on the opposite side, very distinct and extensive hieroglyphic 
inscriptions are found. From hence to Hammamat is a distance 
of thirty-five minutes. Here there is a ruined wakalah, and a very 
deep well of bitter water, to which we descend by stone steps. 
The whole fabric has been lately repaired, and a Marhab or altar- 
piece built, for the Ababdi Arabs of the desert, by the gentlemen 
whose names are recorded at Sayad Suliman. At Hammamat, 
the hills, formed of black trap-rock or wacke, are of greater 



and the Shores of the Red Sea. 205 

altitude, and more abrupt than the ranges previously met with ; 
and about an hour and a half, or four miles and a half from 
hence, the beds of the watercourses, which ran east in the previous 
part of the road, now began to end. West from Hammamat to 
Jaif-ul-Ajul, where we halted, was a distance of one hour and 
fifty minutes. The loaded camels performed the whole distance 
from Abu Ziran, in nine hours and forty-five minutes. Jaif- 
ul-Ajul is a sandstone rock, on the right-hand side, where the 
camelmen usually halt ; it is covered with hieroglyphic characters, 
and over a small model of a portico to a temple, on each side of 
which is a figure of Osiris, there is something written in demotic 
characters. 

Feb. 15th. — Left Jaif-ul-Ajul at a quarter past seven. The 
thermometer at sunrise was 38°. The route alternately lay 
W. N. W. 80°, and W. S. W. 80°. Soon after leaving this place, 
the country expands and becomes more open, the road running 
between low ridges of sandstone, while the high hills appear at a 
considerable distance on the right and left. Arrived at Lagetta 
after five hours and a half. The loaded camels were seven hours 
and fifteen minutes on the road. Lagetta in an Ababdi village. 

Feb. l6th. — Left Lagetta at seven o'clock. Thermometer 39° 
at sunrise. Arrived at Bir-Amber after six hours, the loaded 
camels having taken seven hours and a half. The route lay alter- 
nately W. N.W. and N. N. W. over successive ridges of sandy 
gravel. Amber is the first village on the limits of cultivation; 
having on the east side high banks of gravel and sand, and about 
six or seven miles from it are the sandstone hills which bound the 
Nile on the west. The hills from this village bear W. S. W. 80°, 
and run towards the north. On our arrival at the mosque of this 
village, built by Ibrahim Pasha, the villagers brought out milk, 
butter, eggs, and fowls ready cooked, and entreated us to buy 
their articles. The scene was altogether a novel one, and so 
ardently did the venders urge their claims to our patronage, that we 
were at length induced to buy something, in order to get rid of 
their troublesome entreaties. We found the double water-wheel 
of India here worked by bullocks. The Shaikh of the village 
induced us to take a night-guard, by telling us what former travel- 
lers had suffered from the thieves. 

Feb. 17th. — Left Bir-Amber at half past seven, and arrived at 
Keneh at eleven, having been three hours and a half. Thermo- 
meter 52° at sunrise. 

In concluding these cursory observations on the countries and 
inhabitants in the vicinity of the Red Sea, I would suggest the pro- 
priety of this Society endeavouring to obtain, through the means 
of some of its travelling members, a more full and accurate de- 



206 Observations on the Coast of Arabia, 8;c. 

scription than we yet possess of that part of Arabia called the 
coast of Hazramaut; and also an account of the countries of 
Ajam and Barbara, which, from their connexion, prior to our 
era, with the Greek kingdom of Egypt, are well worthy the atten- 
tion of geographers. The history of the different races inhabiting 
this quarter would be a subject of curious inquiry ; and an account 
of the physical characters of the Sumali and Bedja tribes, and in 
what respects they are different from those of the Shangalla and 
Negros, would enable us to determine, with accuracy, the origin 
and distribution of these several orders of men.